Follow by Email

Saturday, April 16, 2011

17th April - Don't dream it's over

This is a day for a rugby blog, so for those who don't know their rucks from their mauls, this isn't a blog for you.

Yesterday, Burton's brief encounter with National League rugby came to an end. They weren't the worst team in the League by a long way. A little more confidence and a couple of ref decisions their way (Hereford at home) and we may have just stayed up. The younger players will know what they have to do when they return, hopefully in a season's time.

The season also ended for our prop Rob. In fact it was the end of his playing career. One of the great characters of the side, he had Burton running through his heart and tattooed on his leg. After beer he could sleep anywhere, and rumour had it that he made his bed in some really unusual places that could incriminate the innocent and the guilty.

Sport has many ways of revealing heroes in many ways and rugby is no different. Josh Lewsey's tackle on Mat Rodgers that broke his ribs and he could not surf properly afterwards, Richard Hill beating the much fancied Ospreys in a Heineken Cup quarter final on one leg three years ago, Dallaglio dragging four Welshmen over the line in the 90's to score a try, the 6 man scrum in Wellington against the All Blacks. Real character defining moments. (Jonny's drop goal owes more to the moments mentioned beforehand so I don't include it). Moments based on will and determination, as much as skill and talent.

Burton yesterday showed much of that will and determination. racing into a 12 point lead, that belied their League position. Malvern pulled back to within 2 points, and in the stand we feared the worst. In other games this year, that would have meant capitulation, and 20 quick points scored against us.

Rob had his moment yesterday. His ageing legs and dodgy knee meant that he was subbed on about 60 minutes. The crowd gave him a suitably warm send off. Malvern were exerting a lot of pressure on our line, and unfortunately we picked up 2 quick yellow cards for killing the ball. As a prop was one of the guilty, Rob had to come back on. The crowd welcomed him back. His first task, to hold up a scrum on his own line. Malvern lost control, ball regained and a kicked clearance. Job well done. Although Malvern attacked again, Burton managed to secure the ball and a series of pick and go's brought Burton down to the Malvern line. Despite the best efforts to engineer a try for Rob, it just wouldn't happen. Malvern gave away a penalty (but no yellow card?) and the captain called for a scrum. (What were you doing Joel?). I had no need to have worried, as the scrum was re -set as Malvern couldn't cope with the pressure, and on the second re-set, the referee awarded a penalty try. The six men of Burton had beaten the eight of Malvern. A penalty try owes so much to the props who engineered the situation. So with the last move of the game, Rob gained 7 points for the team.

If we can bottle those 8 minutes for next season, bring it on now. Rob - enjoy your retirement, and I hope you will come down for a beer now and then - shirt open, tie round your head, rubbing your tummy. That and today will be my endearing images of you.

Don't dream it's over - Crowded House - a New Zealand band who everyone likes but they've never really sold millions. And a link back to the original intention of the blog.

Friday, April 15, 2011

16th April - Forget You

Today is the end of the season for Burton. A season that started so promisingly is ending with relegation. It left me thinking about the whole experience and how it is like being in love.

Male readers may think that this is a typical view from a woman, it is after all still a very sexist sport. But hey fellas, how many women would blow the price of a new kitchen on going on a Lions Tour? or a Dolce and Gabbana handbag on a game at the 2007 World Cup? (having said that, how many of you men, dare to spend the same, without asking permission from your wife?)

With relegation, there will be the inevitable discussion about whether its because we don't pay players, and half the League do, and if we are to progress in this division next time, then we should factor this in. This season I reckon I've spent about £500 on following Burton home, and until my friend's son got injured away as well. And that doesn't factor in travel costs, as I had lifts with them. I don't really spend money behind the bar any more (but I certainly spend a lot less). I've bought sweatshirts, replica shirts, commemorative boot bags, programmes, not to mention the dreaded raffle tickets - all £40 worth. Guys - how was I supposed to sell them? My friends at the rugby club were all buying their own tickets, and my work mates are all losing their jobs? So I think that qualifies me to comment on paying players at this level.

Courting a lady costs. How many of your mates have you seen spend money chasing their ultimate woman? taking her to expensive restaurants, flowers, wine, chocolates in the home that they will either get their legover, or it develop into a proper relationship? How often to they end up heart broken, or worse still looking like a fool, when the woman falls for someone with more money? flasher car, bigger career? When they compare you to the guy who took them to see Take That, shopping in the Mailbox, had his own company, do you feel inadequate that you can't give them the same? Meanwhile the woman who would suit them far better is the one they've known all along, perhaps is a mate's sister, or one they went to school with?

Rugby players at this level have increasingly become like the expensive woman. 'I'll play for you but I want expenses, my kit and beer free, a job etc. Such and such club will give me all this and a car.' What do you think happens lads? Yep, someone comes along with a better offer and off they go. Meanwhile the lad that came through the ranks from the mini junior section that has fallen deeply in love with the club, remains ignored. He can't be as good can he? he's a Burton boy and come through the ranks.

We won the League the season before at a canter. Mostly with young players coming through the ranks. Ones who don't need paying. They love the shirt. They love their friends. They are DRS. Their dads played years ago. For nothing. This year new players have been introduced from outside the club. They may yet buy into the culture. I hope so. A good example was the fly half that was going to save the season. In his one game for the club, did he look better than the lad who started playing for the club at 6? or the lad that has played for the club for 6 years. If he did then I really don't know my rugby and I should have perhaps bought that new kitchen instead.

I look at my fellow committee members. Some have been there years. Most at some point have played for the club, and have lads that are playing for the club. Its in their blood. Like a marriage I don't have to agree with them all the time. I can criticise because I love them and Burton and vice versa. Some of them are that soft bloke who spends money on flowers, chocolates to reciprocate the love that has developed.

What do I want to see my money spent on? Local lads representing their club, their families and their town at whatever level they are capable of. Newcomers need to buy into this, not see us as a wallet to empty, until the next biger wallet comes along. Like a wife, I push them to achieve more for the good of the club. Leave for ambition, to play at a higher level, not for money. One day I hope to see that white shirt of Burton replaced with a white shirt of England.

Forget You - CeeLo Green. The summer hit of last year. To those lads who will leave this year for money, this was written for you.

April 15th - Apples, Peaches Pumpkin Pie

I had to get some wrapping paper and a birthday card, which required a trip into Burton Town Centre. I dread that. Shopping to me is a chore anyway, but in Burton particularly so.

It's the thick, ugly, dirty haired moronic tattoed lardarses that get to me everytime. They wobble around the town, usually eating something from Greggs, in their badly fitting jeans and tight jogging tops. Being towards the end of the day, with the off-licences pubs now open, there wasn't the queue in the shopping precinct that you find on a Saturday morning, and presumably during the week. KP tells me that when she walks to work through the precinct she sees 16 year olds waiting for the Tech to open, with a can of coke and a sausage roll in their soon to be chubby hands outside Greggs.

I went into WH Smith to buy the card and paper - a safe option as most of them wont/can't read, which is the primary function of the 'Modern Major General's sideline store' and a bloke half my age filled the aisle, wobbling towards the chocolate. Luckily I did a right hand dodge (learnt from my first hockey lesson at school) and overtook him in a parallel aisle. (Left hand dodge wasn't on due to the tactic of 'push and go' being limited by his circumference.)

Anyway, I queued behind a woman who was making the most of the 2 for 1 offer on giant chocolate bars, waiting for the one mature shop assistant who could be bothered to take money. (the other one had disappeared to straighten out 'Women's Weeklys' rather than put the customer first.)

I paid and got out of the shop as soon as possible, and found myself behind 2 elderly ladies going towards the bus stop. They of course were normally sized, as they were from a generation that had faced war time rationing, had 'dug for victory' after the war and knew how to cook. Behind me was a young couple discussing someone's hair style at 90 decibels. Hmmm.  I wonder if they are deaf. No, had just being blowing their job seekers in the pub. Or at least I hope that was what they were doing, as he littered his conversation with the 'f' word - literally every second word. A hair style, however outrageous, didn't deserve that. Neither did the two old ladies, who were probably used to their husbands and other men not swearing in front of them, holding doors for them, and generally showing them respect. I turned round and glared at them. She must have realised and told him to stop swearing which he did. Wayne Rooney's recent outburst, in comparison, was like Mother Teresa dropping a jar on her foot.

There are two women, one possibly my age but looking older, and her daughter who go round town on disability scooters. Moving the large aluminium brewing tanks into town doesn't cause as much of an obstruction. They are so fat, that they can no longer walk, but they do manage their weekly route to Greggs, Poundland and B and K Bargains. The only time they have ever eaten 'green food' was when one of them didn't spot the mould on the cream cake that had been at the back of their fridge for sometime.

I once waited outside a bank with my friend to close down an account. A young women pulled up next to me to chain her bike to the railing. It was a warm day and I could see her tattoo of a syringe on her arm. I used to think my dad was so square to be shocked by what our generation got up to, but this puts the tin hat on it. If he hadn't have been cremated, he would be spinning in his grave.

I spent another blog having a dig at the Council for their policy of not repairing roads, but they have spent time building warehouses in the town. We should give them credit for this, as it has created some jobs. Generally Burton is a working class town, with limited skilled workforce since the breweries have outsourced much of their more skilled work and automated. Of course most of the people I described would benefit from physical work, but they are probably on Disability Benefit with bad backs. So guess what? young go-getting Eastern Europeans with a desire to better themselves have been imported by the coachload to do the work. Good on them I say!!!

I think that the last and present Government's concern about the pension's crisis comes from the fact that the younger generation pay for the older generations pension. Therefore my generation are paying for our parent's generations pension, as they paid for their parents pension. Admirable but simple practice. The issue for ourselves is that the generation below us are so chronically obese, that they will die before us, thus easing the pensions deficit when their generation got there, as they won't but no one paying into our pension pot.

Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie - under 30's cut out the pie!!!

The song Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie - Jay and the Techniques was a huge Northern Soul hit in the mid 70's, when TOTP featured Abba, JJ Barrie and the Brotherhood of Man. Not a period of musical greatness.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

14th April - The Liquidator

As I watched my third football match in three days, (yep my son is home from university, and so I have lost control of the remote for the next three weeks!) I reflected on how joyless the game seemed to be now. None of the players look as though they enjoy playing anymore, the recent Rooney outburst being an example. When he started playing, it was there, he used to run all over the pitch, with the ball, try random things which were spectacular when they came off. Now he just looks as though he hates the world.

Locally, there used to be 8 Leagues on Saturday afternoon, and 6 on Sunday. Nearly everyone I knew in the 80's played a game for fun. Now there's less than 3 on both days. Junior football thrives, as dads dream of their boys being the next Rooney, Gerrard etc. but if they don't reach those heady levels, they stop playing. Sport is about fun lads, find your boots and have a laugh with your mates. I watched my nephew play a game, when he was about 8. Grown men swearing at a 16 year old ref., telling their son or his team mates to 'get rid', that's not how I remember the 'jumpers for goalposts' days, when you played in the playground, on the rec after school, and if there wasn't a ball, the roundest stone was used. (And no, there wasn't rickets and mass poverty). Let the lads set their own games up, don't over-coach them and you may find the skills of the great working class heroes will return (Best, Gascoigne, Charlton, Cunningham (the late Laurie).

Even in the days of hooliganism in the 80's there seemed to be more fun in the game. There used to be a gang of us who used to follow Burton Albion in the Northern Premier League under the great Neil Warnock. The occasion started when we met in our local, The Plough.

The Plough is still run by the same landlord now - he seemed ancient then, and miserable. At closing time his call of 'Sup up and Sod off', used to mean we'd draw out the last dregs of our drinks just to annoy him. It was once part of the Marston's brewery, along with the warehouse across the road before John Marston moved to Shobnall in the late 19th century. It has lots of little cubby holes ideal for affairs, or for friends to take over areas to socilaise or plan the next outing. Thursdays were always a good night, from the tradition of the breweries employees getting paid on a Thursday and wanting to give it back to the brewers who had just paid them as soon as possible. Thursdays remain a good night in town, even in the days of BACS, now being known as 'Dirty Thursday'.

Anyway, in the mid-80's, Burton Albion had a bit of a cup run, and mostly away from home. The first round proper of the FA Cup found us away at Staines in Middlesex. We met in the Plough for early doors at 7.30am. The Landlady was an alcoholic, who came down to serve us in her dressing gown. She emerged from the kitchen at the back, got a glass, put it under the gin optic twice and muttered, 'People when I go to bed, people when I get up'. Sadly the marriage didn't last.

On the football train there we thought of a great song. It involved singing Staines - shit, which developed into Shitstains - oh the wit and irony. After several pints of Pedigree, it was funny to us. We won, 1-0 I think and then caught the train back to play a game of 1 Card Brag. This game involved putting your card on your forehead, so you couldn't see your card but could see everyone else's and then betting on what you thought you had. I did really well out of this, as I sat opposite a window, and could see my card in the reflection. Sorry everyone I probably owe you 35p.

The next game was away at Aldershot. again it was early doors in the Plough. We'd had a late one at the opening of the Leopard in town, and so probably never sobered up. The Football Special train was one of those post war trains with a corrdor down the side, and 12 of us crammed into 1 carriage for 6. It had rained really heavily down south and we were delayed for over an hour somewhere around, believe it or not Staines. We kept ourselves busy by ripping the Sun up into thousands of tiny pieces to give the mighty Brewers a continental welcome. We also nearly got put of the train by the guard when a light got smashed making a human pyramid.

We arrived 10 minutes into the game, with our pockets full of ripped newspaper. We queued for pies as we had got rumbletums by this time. Jonny asked the poor woman at the catering outlet what flavour soup it was. She replied 'Vegetable'. 'Aah', he said, 'its Tomato at the Albion' and walked off. When we got to the stand, Nigel Simms, a pitbonk from South Derbyshire, headed the ball into the net - Goal! Up went the newspaper in the stand onto the wet stand floor and stuck. Albion got a second and we waited excitedly for the train home and the Third Round Draw on a little tranny. The last name out was 'Burton Albion' versus Leicester City. Brilliant - against a local side in the 1st Division. A team that included a rising star in Gary Linekar and England Centre forward Alan Smith. (you didn't have to play for a London, Liverpool or Manchester team to represent your country in those days.)

Excitement was so great in the town, that the game was moved to Derby's Baseball Ground. Tickets purchased, we met in the Plough. We realised then that we didn't know how we were going to get there. At 1.30pm someone thought the local bus company Stevenson's were running buses. We went to the nearest bus stop and flagged down the next Stevenson's Rocket. An old double decker with a door at the back where the conductor stood. £1 lighter, this minor miracle of 50's engineering took us to the ground.

Leicester scored first, but almost immediately the Brewers equalised and the 17,000 crowd went mad. Woody turned to me and said, 'This is like an orgasm,' 'No' I said, 'Better, its lasted longer.' Sadly the fun ended there. The Leicester or was it Derby fans infiltrating the ground, started ripping up seats and throwing them on the pitch, Paul Evans, the Albion goalie fell to the ground injured. He played on, with concussion, but conceded another 7 goals.

The next day and Monday, the national press went mad, and it was probably the start of Neil Warnock's rise to fame as he fought for the game to be replayed. The FA agreed and the game was replayed behind closed doors. Albion lost 1-0, but I still believe we could have pulled off at least a replay and another adventure had those 'fans' not injured our goalie.

The Liquidator (Harry J All Stars) was the tune that the mighty Baggies used? to run out to. Chelsea merely copied. I won't mention those at the Custard Bowl who also claim to be the first to use it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April 13th - Road to Hell

For those who don't know my dim and distant past, I grew up in Church Road, Rolleston, the house had two addresses, the other one being Hall Grounds. We never really used this address, not being lifelong residents, but the Newsagent always did. Hall Grounds has a dubious past. It was the ancestral home of the Mosley family. The history lesson: John Bull, the farmer and symbol of an English gentleman farmed here and over to Lichfield. He was a livestock breeder by the name of Toland Mosley. The family were great benefactors of the village building a village hall, keeping the church afloat etc. Sadly his great grandson, wasn't such a charmer, Oswald, and his great great grandson was Max Mosley,  the great flagellator and Formula 1 Chief.

The pub in the village is named after the eagle on the family crest - a Spread Eagle - those awful reminders of Nazism still exist.

Anyway, back to the point. Rolleston has a link to Christchurch New Zealand. On the outskirts on Christchurch is a village called Rolleston, which at some point I hope to visit, just beacuse I'm there. This was formed by one of the founding fathers of Christchurch, William Rolleston, who was an Anglican who built a model English Town there with a cathedral, park, town square etc. The Rolleston family albeit from Yorkshire, had in the dim and distant past, some links to Rolleston village.

Obviously being a village, like all English villages, the Council Tax payments go into the local town for the greater good. Hmmm.....No one ever considers the silent majority in these things. Consequently, we have rising bollards, roundabouts that aren't big enough, pelican crossings with lights, everything to stop the motorist getting into 4th gear and reducing his carbon footprint. The rising bollards are an entertainment though, as cars that tailgate buses get speared. I've yet to see it happen, but I live in hope I will see it, as it will be one of the most exciting things for me to see Burton in a long time. And Church Road Rolleston, which was declared 'dangerous' to drive on in 2000, by the Council remains unrepaired. Miraculously 5 years ago, the Council, which probably didn't have any money, decided that it was fit to drive on, around the time they placed speed bumps on it. (Rant no 1: If you flattened the tarmac out, the road might be driveable - morons.)

Overheard in the Newsagents recently, was a conversation between someone who was in Christchurch when the earthquake hit: Question: What state were the roads in? Answer: I live in Church Road, I didn't notice the difference.

At the moment, I'm excited. Station Road is under going 11 weeks of roadworks. At the moment, this seems to have consisted of spraying white and blue paint on the road, and red on the pavement. This has been followed by kerbs being dug out and replaced with new ones. This is good because on one corner when the few buses that come through the village (nothing after 5.30pm - thanks Arriva - we are all tucked up in bed by then) it has become badly damaged. Council solution is to take the kerb further out into the road, to make it even more difficult for the bus to navigate. Genius. Luckily this Government is getting rid of the economic departments in the regions to give power back to the councils, and I'm being made redundant. With such a fantastic record of common sense, I can't wait to see what they come up with.

For those who didn't spot the musical link - it is a bit obscure as it hardly classes as music - Road To Hell - Chris de Burgh!!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

12th April - Introduction - World In Union

For those of you who don't know, (you must have been on Pluto or something - the ex-planet not the dog), I am being made redundant and get a bit of a pay-off. Instead of being sensible and getting the mortgage down and paying off a few bills, I'm blowing a significant amount of it on a 8 week trip to New Zealand and Fiji for the Rugby World Cup. This, I thought, was an unattainable dream, but a chance comment at a rugby match with my sister, (who can tell that rugby players are sportsmen, by the way that the hairs have rubbed off on their legs) who volunteered the family savings to let me go. (Goodness knows how much sex she had to have to persuade her husband it was  a good idea). So two days later, I booked. And then the earthquake hit Christchurch - timing as always still impeccable. This really does put everything into context. One of the world's beautiful cities in rubble, lives lost, so my troubles are nothing. So I get on a flight to Auckland (Air New Zealand - more details for the plane spotters probably in another blog) on 6th September, to return to the UK on 30th October. My habitual abode during most of that time is a two berth camper van.

For those of you who enjoy sport, in particular rugby, I am going to at least 12, probably 14 World Cup games. During that time, I will watch for my sister's other pearl of wisdom. Physio's always wear shorts to look sporting, have all the hairs on their legs and hitch their shorts up too high, (regardless of sport). With their rubber gloves, they look even more dubious.

I hope to master posting photos, so that you can get a feel of some of the places I visit, so I may practice with other adventures I have before then, and if I get busy and really into it, some from the past as well. My first attempt failed as gifs jifs pdfs and goodness knows what has already confused me. (Hmmm - this might take some work!!!)

At the moment I'm planning my route and things to do, which I'll let you all have, so that you can see where I am, if things go quiet. I will probably be up a mountain somewhere. The blog was the idea of some of my friends (they had had alcohol) in the Rugby Club. They have also asked me to reflect the thoughts of the day in a song title. Pressure's on to deliver something that people keep following and want to read about. However, I am sure that I will stray into rants about players, games, emptying the waste from the van etc.

Remember when you were a child, and in the run up to Christmas, you counted off sleeps, and often didn't sleep? Well that's how I was for a week after I booked, it's just an unbelievable adventure, I'm going to have.
For those of you who are counting, its 146 nights (not counting the Sunday afternoon naps).

The song in the Title is the ITV theme music (to the tune of I vow to thee my Country) to the last few World Cups.